Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

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Tidal Tacos

We were passing by Osoyoos, enroute to our air bnb in Naramata, and decided to stop for gas and lunch. And at “Tidal Tacos” its was a two in one. It came as a recommendation from a friend who lives in the area, and has found himself frequenting this kitchen since its opening. If not for him and his high praise, I don’t think we would consider lunching at a Petrol Canada gas station. But here we were and we weren’t alone, we placed our order and many more came after us.

The menu is a list of taco fillings above the window/counter. Pretty straight forward with a kids menu as well. We ordered four different tacos, not realizing the size of each. We expected 4 inch rounds as is commonplace in Vancouver. Instead these were two 7 inch tortillas stacked, and buried by vegetables.

It would have been nice of the lone employee: clerk and cook to warn us that we were ordering far too much food for two people. One taco stacked high in its basket was plenty. Though with all the shredded lettuce and sauce it ate more like a salad.

Each was also impossible to hold, without the filling toppling out at either ends. We ended up digging in with our fork, and digging out more than half of the lettuce. It is only then can you tell which taco has your chosen protein.

The “Beef, Blackbean, and Corn” was ground beef, sautéed black bean and corn, topped with crispy shredded lettuce, sharp aged cheddar, and a cilantro sour cream. This was my favourite of our four. It had a familiar, comforting flavour with the ground beef.

I enjoyed the “Sweet Thai Chicken” for the different combination it brought to the taco, with its sweet chilli sauce dressing. Fresh baked chicken, shredded lettuce, housemade pico de Gallo; all drizzled over with a chipotle aioli and spicy sirarcha. There was plenty of chicken meat too, and all of it prepared well and dressed fully.

I found that the “Pork Carnitas” taco overwhelmed with its tangy and salty bbq sauce. You couldn’t taste the cooked pork, shredded cabbage, housemade pico de Gallo, or chipotle aioli over it.

The “Baja Fish” taco was mild by comparison. I should have started with this and worked my way to the bbq pork one. Fresh Pacific cod that is panko crusted and flash fried, then topped much like the other tacos: shredded cabbage, housemade pico de Gallo, and chipotle aioli. The fish had a great texture, but it was the sauces that flavoured it.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
These weren’t your traditional tacos, they weren’t authentic to anything, just great for what they were. Better than any other gas station offering for sure. Amazing value, plenty of food for $5.50-7.50 for a 3lb taco. I can see why the person who recommended this to us, drives out of his way here for lunch. A great meal solution that is tasty and on the healthier side for a price that doesn’t break the bank. Don’t deny your cravings.

Petro-Canada gas station
6201 45 St, Osoyoos, BC V0H 1V6

Getting Outdoors with the Honda Civic Sport Coupe

Every year for my birthday, my partner takes me for a weekend to the Okanagan, an easy drive eastward to escape the city and our every day lives. And this year we would made our getaway in the Honda Civic Sport Coupe.

Civics have continue to be the best selling car in Canada for a reason; and many of us have owned one, one time or another. For my partner and I, our first car was a Civic, in one of its past reincarnations. So the shared four hour drive up and down, also served as a ride down memory lane.

The Honda Civic is known for its reliability, a necessity when driving great distances, in areas with no cell phone reception. And it boasts a great fuel economy, thanks to its small engine displacement; ideal when fill ups can cost you an arm and a leg with Vancouver’s gas prices. It is also agile because of its size, making winding roads and the need to change lanes more fun, than a challenge. And a two door coupe spoke to our personal family dynamic, no children, nothing but storage space needed in the back seat. Thus, giving us the look of a sports car without the premium.

So off we went with our adventure-mobile! Our first day out we decided to go camping, and joked that the sporty coupe was more a street vehicle, then one you take when venturing out doors. But during the ride to and from on the highway, having a sports mode made the drive more enjoyable. The winds, the curves, the loops, and the turns tested the handling, and the Civic Sport Coupe rose to the occasion.

I was especially surprised to see how much we could pack into the truck and back seat. We were able to fit all that we needed for a comfortable camping excursion, as well as the supplies needed for a beach filled getaway, the days after.

Two hours breezed by and we were at Manning Park Resort, heading towards Lightening Lake’s campsite. We were limited in choices thanks to the long weekend, but were more than happy with our lot. It was a short walk to either the out house; or the facilities with running water, hot showers, and flushable toilets. We were only at lot 107 for the night. Many more families booked for the entire BC Day long weekend.

I must preface this by saying I don’t take to the wilderness well. But my partner pushes me out of my comfort zone, so that I can grow. We don’t camp often: one day, once a year and that is plenty. Therefore we haven’t found the need to spend much on our equipment. A cheap tent with 3 rod installation, an air mattress that you can manually pump with your foot or hands, and foldable chairs to sit by the fire pit with. All easy to set up and take down, but not necessarily the most comfortable or spacious.

Our tent was cramped and cold with very little room for more than our queen-sized air mattress. There was barely a boarder between us and the wilderness in our flimsy tent, and our mattress loss air steadily. My partner woke up several times during the night, uncomfortable from the lack of support. He found himself needing to pump with vigour in to re-inflate. I managed to sleep through this. He was also kind enough to borrow a sleeping bag so that I could be warm and cozy, to get a good night’s sleep. So I couldn’t really complain as he slept directly on the air mattress with a comforter wrapped around him like a burrito.

I also get bitten easily and often from mosquitoes and bugs alike. But this year I came equipped with a bug repellent lotion, an aerosol spray, and coiled incense that is proven to ward off mosquitoes with its unique smell. I ended up lighting them and surrounding myself with three of them. And for the most part they worked, I walked away the next morning with only 2 bites. But I am sure the smoke from the fire we huddled around helped too.

Thankfully, our BC summer has been wetter than usual and there aren’t the same fire bands as they were in summers past. So we were able to take advantage of the fire pit, stationed at our camp site. This also doubled as the heat source we needed to cook our dinner and breakfast over next day.

We grilled buffalo and sweet garlic chicken wings and a beef and souvlaki chicken skewer for dinner. And followed it with a toasted marshmallow for dessert.

And for breakfast my partner had miniature boxed cereal and hot buttered toast. And I had a grilled hot dog with our choice of condiments in mayonnaise, ketchup, and/or relish.

Camping just wouldn’t be the same without a campfire. We purchased wood at the local gas station and supplemented what else we needed by foraging. We then parked ourselves in front of our crackling fire for the night, stoking it, watching wood burn to ash. It kept us warm as we drank and talked, pausing to look up at the dark sky and the stars sprinkled throughout it.

The next day we woke with the rustling of nylon from our neighbours, who decided to get an early start. It is hard to sleep in with the light and heat of the sun transforming your tent into a sauna.

Lightening Lake was a 5 minute walk from our campsite so we decided to take a morning stroll to it. It was a nice body of water to take a dip in, paddle a boat across, or simply catch some sun by.

Check out was at 11am, and after a rough morning we headed out. There was only one sink running in the women’s washroom. So I made do by brushing my teeth and spitting the excess tooth paste over a bush. I passed on lining up for the one shower altogether. I figured it was only 2 hours to our air bnb in Naramata, and I could just clean myself there.

Our next 3 nights would be spent in a more luxurious setting, comparatively. This was newly refurbished studio that gave us the privacy of an individual home, with the adjacency to the city and its social life, that we as tourists were looking for.

It has a new kitchen and washroom. The former was furnished with a coil-less stove and all the equipment you need to make a meal, and the dishwasher to clean it all afterwards. Coffee maker, toaster, microwave, and kettle. The only thing we would have liked in addition was a barbecue.

The washroom was very modern, a smaller space that was well designed. The only downside was the door that hesitated to close and lock and the fact that if you didn’t, a window aligned with its door way, meant the neighbours could get an unobstructed view of you on the toilet.

The suite had an air conditioning unit that was quick to cool the smaller space. And best of all, when it got to cold or noisy at night, you could simply straighten up and turn it off from the bed in its alcove, overlooking the living room.

But hands down the reason to rent this lake side studio is for it patio. A step out of the living room gave you an elevated and unobstructed view of the farm land and fruit orchards below, and the lake in the distance. We would spend most of our time here eating meals, playing the available board games, and simply enjoying the scenery from sunrise to sunset. You can see the water by day and all the stars at night.

Our air bnb hosts also let us borrow their kayaks and their pick up truck to transport them and us down to the Okanagan Lake, which we had been admiring above. Our kayaks allowed us to enjoy the water in a different way. We kept dry as we sat slightly reclined, cutting through the water with our paddles. We were also invited to borrow their bicycles and helmets, although we ran out of time during this visit.

Instead, we would spend most of our time at Skaha Lake, the other lake that feeds the Okanagan Valley, and sandwiches the nearby town of Pentiction. Here, its smooth orange sands, ample parking, and plenty of convenient concessions make it out favourite beach in the Okanagan.

During this year’s trip we also visit several restaurants and wineries, but those will be covered in their own posts. For all those reviews, check out the “Travel” section of the blog, under “Okanagan”.

In short, another great annual trip to the Okanagan, all made possible by the Honda Civic Sport Coupe that got us there safely and back.


Green & Oak Malaysian Restaurant

My guest and I were looking for Malaysian food for dinner. And after a quick Google search, we were happy to find one by our homes, in Burnaby. Based on the building’s roof detail, we surmised that this use to be a Greek restaurant. But the rainbow spotted wall paper and light weight, bleach wood furniture had the interior looking more like a bubble tea cafe. Similarly, the name didn’t really speak to what was on the menu.

We were originally seated by the back exit, on a convertible table. However, as soon as a table by the window opened up, the host that originally showed us in (who I think is also the owner), kindly re-sat us without us having to ask for the better table. All the while she had her young 3 year old son in tow, helping to drop off menus and deliver diner’s their bills. It gave you an “Awww” sensation and spoke to this being a family run business.

The two sided laminated menu listed a bunch of familiar plates, and I fully indulged in this edible walk down memory lane. The following are a must order when I see them on any menu. However I had a preconceived idea of how each dish tasted, and therefore I was left unsatisfied. The food was good, and I would have enjoyed everything more had I not compared it to my mother’s cooking or that which I had growing up. It was simply a different rendition of Malaysian cuisine. My guest on the other hand enjoyed everything in full, taking a take out menu to go, along with our leftovers.

“Roti-canai”, fresh made Malaysian flatbread, grilled and served with their own curry dipping sauce. The dough was chewy and flaky, the perfect vehicle to sop up chunks of their curry. The curry here was the exact same one served in their “Malaysian curry rice”. A coconut curry made with lemon grass, shallot, and onion. I wanted a richer curry, finding it a little flat for a dip. I also wanted some more peanut and sweetness to it, to better play off the salty roti.

The “Hainanese chicken” was my favourite of the night. Steamed chicken cooked in rich chicken stock, served with a red chilli and ginger dipping sauce. This is the set meal with both white or dark meat, but for $1 extra we could have had our choice of all dark or all white meat. It was just as I remembered it. Tender chicken, served slightly chilled, with a flavour that is clean on palette, ending in a faint soy flavour that lingers. As a set menu it comes with a neutral soup (compared to everything else we ordered), a tasty chicken stock flavoured steamed rice, and a mild chilli and ginger oil sauce for additional seasoning.

My guest’s favourite dish was the “Penang tofu”. Deep fried tofu topped with onion, cucumber, and a sweet chilli sauce. This version was good, the sauce was on point, but we wished the tofu was crisper and that the deep fry had more of a freshness to it.

The “Laksa soup” was disappointing. A runny curry based soup with tofu, bean sprouts, egg, lemon grass, lime juice, and hints of coconut milk. It wasn’t as flavourful or as rich as I know laksa to be. We had our choice of vermicelli, egg noodle, rice noodle, mixed or no noodle. We went for the egg noodle, but had we selected for the finer gauge, traditional, rice noodle we might have liked the bowl more. See a whole reminded more more of a sour tom yum soup, than the rich curry based soup I was hoping for.

I was excited for the “Belachan fried rice” with dried shrimp, chilli pepper, pork, shrimp, egg, and soya sauce. This was a flavour that isn’t known to many, a unique fishiness with good umami. I just wished it wasn’t so greasy, leaving a sheen on our utensils and lips.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Once again, the food was good enough, but it just didn’t satisfy because of the expectation I had going in. Not traditional Malaysian fare, but a unique interpretation when in Burnaby, to discover. Don’t deny your cravings.

3760 Hastings St, Burnaby, BC V5C 2H5
(778) 589-2668

#WastetoWonder, Metropolis at Metrotown

Metropolis at Metrotown has done it again, they have yet another great feature in their Grand Court worth visiting. From August 8 – September 8, 2019 mall goers can marvel at the “Waste to Wonder” exhibit. The “largest flip flop and animal art exhibit in the world”, a one of a kind installation handcrafted by “Ocean Sole Africa”.

“Ocean Sole” is a not of profit focusing on environmental protection. “Not only are they creating employment for a country that has an unemployment rate of 40%, but they are also sending a message about how we can help our planet, our oceans and people; through creating beautiful art.”

They are making a difference by bringing awareness to both the amount of waste in our oceans and the need to protect endangered animals. Volunteers out of Kenya walk rivers, lakes, and oceans in search of loss and discarded flip flops that they can turn into works of art. So stunning are these installations that they are available for purchasing through an auction. The proceeds of which will go to the “Variety Children’s Charity”, helping kids in BC with special needs.

 The narwhal.

 The orca.

 The bison.

 The grizzly.

 And the caribou.

All five animals together are made from over 6,500 flip flops, requiring 2,500+ hours of work, by more than two dozen artists. Their gathering here is “Ocean Sole’s” largest exhibit to date.

There is also a beaver, an additional animal that has been commissioned. He has already been spotted “wandering around” downtown, but is now settling in Metrotown’s grand court for the month. This one you are able to get close to and take a photo with.

And as usual, Metrotown has created a fun way for visitors to win a $1,000 shopping spree. At either of the available kiosks, you can guess how many flip flops went into making the orca for a chance to win. Additionally you can win a prize package or a $500 Metropolis giftcard by visiting the “Waste to Wonder” exhibit, snapping a photo and sharing on line with the tags “METWastetoWonder and @metropolisatmet.

There are also a variety of different events to take part in during the duration of the showcase. The link with all the details will be provided below. For now, here are the dates and their brief descriptions.

August 8th: 1-3pm.
You can meet one of the “Ocean Sole” artists who will show you how he does! There are only 100 spots available for this and resignation is required. Each participant gets a souvenir and a keep sake photo.

August 14th and 18th: 2pm, 3pm, 4pm.
The upcycle bracelet workshop teaches kids of all ages how to make their own beaded braclet, crafted from the same materials as the animals today: discarded flip flops.

August 15th, 22nd, 29th: 12-4pm
Metropolis is having a plastic drive. Drop off any clean, one time use plastic container, straws, and/or plastic bag to help get them out of landfills. The first 800 customers who donates a full grocery bag of plastics each day will receive an reusable gift.

August 21st: 3 and 4pm.
Kiehl’s upcycle workshop. Bring your old Kiehl make up containers, and learn how to make them into green planters. This too has limited availability and requires registering.

I attended the media launch which included live music, various beverages, small bites, and a live demonstration from “Ocean Sole”. Our visit also included a closer than normal look and the rubber animals. When the exhibit opens tomorrow, they will be sectioned off to ensure they are kept safe and in good condition, for those who purchase them for a good cause.

The following are the small bites courtesy of “Forage” we was catering.

Beets with blue cheese.

Blue lemonade and Fruit punch. Non alcoholic.

Mac and cheese croquettes with house made ketchup.

Birch with maple syrup jelly over an heirloom tomato salad.

Chicken satay over rocks.

“MET Waste to Wonder” is open during mall hours daily August 8th to September 8th, 2019 and is a free experience for everyone to enjoy. Even more reason to visit the mall, outside of its air conditioning. Come by for a photo op, to learn something about each endangered animal, to take part in a unique workshop, and for the ability to win a shopping spree!

Metropolis at Metrotown, Grand Court
4700 Kingsway, Burnaby
(Lower Level, near T&T Supermarket and Toys R Us)



Chilliwack Sunflower Festival

From the same farm that brings you the popular tulip festival every spring, here is the 2nd annual sunflower festival, that now happens every summer. More than just rows of yellow flowers to take photos of, they have plenty of photos ops to have you spending hours behind your phone. Today, I was invited for a sneak peak look at the festival, 2 days before it opened to the public. Therefore my experience will be slightly different that what you can expect, so I will be sure to point out any differences.

The festival runs from August 1st to September 15th and is open daily. They boast close to 17 acres of beautiful blooming sunflowers in 35 different varieties. Mammoth sunflowers towering above you at 15 feet, 6-8 foot Sunrich sunflowers, known for their stunningly perfect blooms.

There is also a 3-acre field of Dahlias, featuring 54 different varieties. Some even growing over 10 inches in diameter, to the size of a dinner plates.

For a accurate look at all the photos ops, check out my latest vlog, as I tour your around the “Chilliwack Sunflower Festival”!

For the still photos keep scrolling down.

Grab a seat on their swinging bench.

Or swing side by side with a friend on their swing set.

Pose by their wooden bridge, or climb up for a more scenic background shot.

Perch yourself on the stationary bicycle with wicker basket up front.

Or climb on to the tractor.

Pose in front of their windmill.

Or perch behind the wooden sunflower stand.

Dawn a pair of Dutch wooden shoes or climb into the large one that can fit your entire family. Both are new features this year and were handmade and painted in Holland just for this festival.

And of course surround yourself amongst all the sunflowers.

There is a play ground for kids to climb up and slide down. And giant wooden games like Jenga, dominos, and the bean bag “cornhole” toss to play.

For those who like souvenirs there is a gift shop with local products and sunflower themed goods for you to purchase. As well as bulbs from spring’s tulip festival that you can buy to plant your own at home garden.

And if you get hungry there are food and drink vendors on site. “Big Red’s poutine” truck offers sunflower seekers two types of fresh cut fries and gravy. Their “Chilliwack poutine” includes chunks of local pork smokies, thick gravy, and Chilliwack local cheese curds over hand cut fries. And for the vegetarians there is a poutine with a vegetable based gravy over the same Chilliwack local cheese curds and hand cut fries. Cheese optional for those looking for a vegan option or something that is dairy free.

And to wash it all down they also have fresh squeezed lemonade, made from half a lemon juiced with a hand pump, served with simple syrup and ice.

During our visit there were also two local Chilliwack wine and beer vendors that we got to sample from. Like the “Whispering Horse” winery from up the road.

And “Old Yale” brewery with fruit infused beers like a “juicy peach tea radler”, “Moon dance mango wheat”, and the “Knotty Blonde ale”.

They both paired well with the charcuterie board and veggies and dip that we nibbled on.

And our night ended with some sunflower cupcakes in either vanilla or chocolate and sunflower short bread cookies. I appreciated the cohesiveness in their theme.

We also got a crash course on bouquet building with Brian of Minter Gardens. He taught us how to shape our own sunflower themed flower arrangement, which we could take home. Please not the flowers in the fields are for everyone to enjoy, so please do not pick these. For a fresh cut keepsake, visit the giftshop instead.

Overall a great festival that celebrates our local farms and their harvest. Worth visiting for your next profile picture. For ticket information and further details visit their website below.

41310 Yale Road, Chilliwack, BC V2R 4J1

Nightingale revisted

It has been a while since I visited “Nightingale”, I was reminded of it thanks to the success of “Netflix’s” romantic comedy, “Always be my Maybe”. It centres around the restaurant industry and therefore uses several Vancouver restaurants as its backdrop. “Nightingale” makes an appearance as “Saintly Fare”, a new restaurant opened in San Francisco by our main character, Chef Sasha Tran. In the movie it is clear that the two storey restaurant with its bird cages and origami bird accents is actually “Nightingale” on Hastings at Burrard.

My original visit was right when it opened in 2016, and back then I didn’t have a very memorable meal, so was looking forward to reassessing it now, with all its new found success and film notoriety.

We arrived in time for happy hour cut off, Sunday to Wednesday from 3-5:30pm. So ordered their popular “buttermilk fried chicken” for $3 less. It was dressed in a spiced maple syrup with sumac and pickles. Not your classic fried chicken flavour, but just as crunchy and tasty in its sweet sauce and tangy pickles. Although I would have preferred this over waffles given its sweetness and natural alignment for brunch.

I was excited to see “Chicharron” on the menu, but was disappointed by its execution. I have had pork rinds before and given the nature of the restaurant, I figured it would be an elevated rendition. Instead, these were fairly dense crisps, heavier than I thought they would be, with a harder crunch. Not only was it tough to eat, but it lacked flavour with its simple charred lemon salt seasoning.

For our entrees we shared a pizza and a pasta dish. The “Summer squash” pizza was thin crust dough topped with Fresno chilli, mozzarella, san marzano, and fior di latte. It reminded me of a sweet Margherita pizza at its core. But with the unique starch and woodsy-ness of the sweet squash, balanced by the salty cheese and fragrant crispy basil leaves.

The “Chitarra pasta” was similar in its lightness. Rich in flavour and not in sauce, it was a little dry with the duck ragu, crispy sage, and pecorino romano. Overall it was tasty enough, but I prefer a saucy pasta and something less salty. With this, we finished a litre of water between us.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
It certainly is a nice spot, but the food just doesn’t satisfy as other pastas and pizzas at other restaurants have/do. Don’t deny your cravings.

1017 W. Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 0C4

Summerhill Pyramid Winery

We were at “Summerhill Winery”, one of Kelowna’s largest wineries, well known for their pyramid. And today we were lucky enough to have gotten a personal tour of the property with Ezra Cipes, the CEO of Summerhill himself. It was such a treat to be able to experience the winery and his father’s legacy through his eyes. The following are the authentic highlights I captured.

“Summerhill” is an organic winery, priding themselves on their sustainable methods, disrupting as little of the land as possible while operating on it. They have 80 acres, yielding grapes on 42 of them. The property includes a large gully that serves as a wildlife preserve, and wetlands that empties out in to a creek. All waste water from their wine processing gets funnelled under ground to the wetlands, giving it nutrients to flourish. They also make their own compost, utilizing biodynamic farming techniques; which allows them to grow enough in their green house to serve garden fresh fruits and vegetables at their restaurant. (More on the restaurant later.)

The vineyard has been in place since 1940. The Cipes family took over in 1987. Back then it only grew table grapes and hybrid grapes, more suited to the old wine industry with “jug wine”. When they took over, Stephen Cipes introduced Riesling grapes, to prove that European grapes would grow in Canada. And when he was successful, they began replanting and rebooting the winery, specializing in sparkling wine, that the land was so well suited for.

And we would get a taste of this sparkling as our tour started at their indoor tasting room, where we sampled their “Cipes brut”. This is Canada’s most awarded wine, year after year it has won gold medals internationally. They use the same methods to make their sparkling as they do in France to make champagne, but with non traditional European grapes. At “Summerhill” their grape blend is Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. The result, a sparkling with a natural vibrancy, and an acidic freshness. Truthfully I am not a fan of sparkling wines for their fizziness, but the “Cipes Brut” is an exception. It was delicious and light, easy to drink without that soda feel.

With our glass in hand and its taste still on your lips, we explored the property, starting at the cellar. Normal tour groups get a look at these large vats behind a glass window, but we were able to walk amongst them. And here, our crash course on wine making began. (So excuse the abbreviated explanation).

Yeast eats sugar, and converts in to carbon dioxide with heat and alcohol. This juice will then become our wine. The crushed grape yeast that lives on the grape skins turns into wine or vinegar.

The equipment necessary for this process requires a lot of cleaning and sanitizing. It is very important that no bacteria exists to spoil the wine. And being an organic winery means they don’t use any harsh cleaners, instead they use steam to clean: ozone, which is an anti microbial. They are also constantly cleaning, as the wine process creates an environment for bacteria to naturally grow.

All reds are fermented in the large barrels. Whites spend their time in stainless steel, with a dimpled cooling jacket. This allows them to temperature control their environment.

And as for sparkling wine, making it is like doing things twice. You add more yeast and more sugars. It is then bottled and allowed to age in crates before it is clarified and they work to get all the solids out. The “Cipes Brut” we tried earlier is their youngest sparkling.

Once bottled all the sparkling wine gets slotted into a gyro-pallets. It rocks the bottles back and forth, shifting its axis steadily. It moves every three hours, until after 4 days it is turned fully upside down. This is so all the yeast and sediment settles in the cap.

Next comes the riddling, where all the bottles are submerged upside down, so that the neck of the bottle is in a solution that has a low freezing point. The result, the neck is frozen and the dead yeast is incased in a block of ice.

A very specific machine gets rid of the ice block, while simultaneously topping the bottle of wine up. The finished bottles go through a washer and quality control. The labels are checked, bottles are turned upside down to ensure there are no leaks; and the wine is inspected for clarity, to make sure all the sediment has been removed.

All completed cases then go to the pyramid to rest, like we would. They are aged for 15-18 months, and as long as 12 years. The first version of the pyramid was built in 1989, the current one is the second rendition, both were created for and used only as their wine cellar. They were built by Stephen Cipes, who studied and experimented with pyramids before embarking on building his own. He even went to Egypt to learn the architecture necessary. His inspiration came from a trip to Europe, when purchasing equipment and grapes for his own winery.

In Europe they age wine underground, traditionally in cellars lit with gas lamps. There, Cipes felt the energy of the space, and immediately recognized that it was an integral part of the wine making process. However, the ground composition of Europe versus Canada varied. And what was in place there, couldn’t be imitated here. So the next best thing was to mimic the limestone available underground in Europe, in his Canadian pyramid. A strong foundation with four pillars and capstone, all continuously fused with concrete and reinforced with fibre glass, using not a single nail. The Pyramid was built to represent the geometry of nature, with angles taken from nature, like the Fibonacci sequence; and set with an alignment to the stars. The sacred geometry of the room saw many using it to celebrate the moon and the stars. The community uses the pyramid as a gathering space to engage in group meditations during full moons and the equinox. These events are an open invitation, with admission being a vegetarian potluck item to share. Attendees eat, meditate, dance, and drum. Similar gatherings happen at their pit house as well. (More on that below.)

At the centre of the pyramid, surrounded by wine racks and palettes of packaged cases of wine, we were invited to disconnect and enjoy the space. To close our eyes, breath deep and take in the silence and harmony. I found the stillness of the space easy to relax in, and melt into.

During this part of the tour we didn’t close the push open doors behind us, and as a result visitors found themselves venturing in to the dark of the pyramid, un-accompanied. And instead of telling them that the space was closed to tourists, Ezra welcomed the family with two young children in, catching them up on what we were discussing prior to their entry. It was here that I was impressed by his customer service and learned how he fully represents and lives according to the principles of the winery. He embodies that welcoming energy. Similarly I witness him picking up trash off the property and pocketing it each time. He stated if he didn’t, who would. He had been speaking to the care he had for the land and here he showed it.

Next our tour took us to the above mentioned pit house. The “Makwala Memorial Kekuli” is a scared space built in respect and reverence for the ancestors of the land. For those who wish to enter they ask that there be no “idle talk”, alcohol or parties, and no ceremonies without permission. It is here the moon celebration potluck is held. Here, Ezra spoke to nature and the need to have a different mentality and relationship with the earth. A way to fill all ecosystems so that there is balance. For example when you use pesticides you dominate and control the environment, and dictate what you want to survive. At “Summerhill” everything coexists and the tent represents them being a part of nature.

I have visited “Summerhill” once before and when I look back at my time there, not only do I associate them with the pyramid, but also all of their unique photo ops and play things for children. See saws, putting practice, a overturn giant bottle of Sparkling pouring into a fountain. A stain glass pyramid, a hand carved door, and the ability to stand on top of the world. This makes them the most family friendly of all the wineries, giving plenty to keep both parents and kids occupied during their visit. This creative direction comes from a place of doing good. They want to welcome everyone, so that no one feels intimated, as you would be at other more stuffy wineries. Given all the kids running around today and all the laughter you hear, I can say that they are doing a great job in this regard.

Next we went back indoors to their tasting hall, to try another one of their sparkling wines. The 2012 “Cipes Blanc de Blanc” is the white of the whites. Its name refers to to traditional grapes of the champagne region that they use in this. Layering on 6 years before uncorking for a more classic bubble. A bone dry sparkling that is highly acidic with a sugar layer added. Ezra described this as having a “Creamier, finer bubble from that of traditional methods. A buttoned up version compared to the everyday Processco.”

Our tour eventually ended at their restaurant, where we fully enjoyed the fruit and labour of the land we were on. We naturally gravitated to their patio, overlooking their vineyard and event space set up with arch and rows of chairs, wedding ready. This was the ideal space to enjoy the freshness of the land and their mostly vegetarian menu. The following were what Ezra recommended, and the perfect wine to go with it.

The “Organic caperese salad” with garden tomatoes, herbed oil, garden basil, local bocconcini, and balsamic pearls. Normally their tomatoes are fresh from their own garden, although due to a smaller crop yield they have had to source their tomatoes locally, from neighbours. This was a beautiful salad, and as refreshing as it looks.

By comparison the “Organic vegan “calamari”” was a lot more denser, with deep fried tempura oysters mushroom and house made organic tzatziki. The crunch was good and the flavour amazing. A great one to share and nibble on as you drank.

Together our two plates were paired with their 2017 Summerhill Organic Vineyard, SV Riesling. It was sweet and bright with fruit, balancing everything out perfectly.

They also have a new secondary kitchen, operating out of a shipping container outside, adjacent to their outdoor tasting room. We missed getting a chance to taste their cuisine here, given it’s shorter operating hours. Here, they served up international fare, giving visitors a quicker meal option that they can pair with a glass of wine outside. It also cost less with snack items most child would like. Fish tacos, hummus and naan, sweet and sour pork, bratwurst and sauerkraut, butter chicken, crispy ribs, and chicken souvlaki to name a few. Everything ranged between $8-9 a plate.

In conclusion, I highly recommend taking the tour at “Summerhill”. You think you know a wine, but there is nothing like learning about the vision behind its winery. Throughout this experience, we grew a new found appreciation for “Summerhill”. And we certainly wouldn’t have felt that way if not for the informative tour, coupled with glasses of their trademark sparkling. What a great afternoon, in a great winery, enjoying an amazing product cultivated through looking at more than just the process and out come of the wine; but also considering the environmental responsibilities and the people behind the product. Creating the right conditions for something natural to happen, not making it happen. The tour and Ezra have made me a brand fan. A humble CEO with approachable staff. I will definitely be recommending and drinking more of their sparkling!

4870 Chute Lake Rd, Kelowna, BC V1W 4M3
(250) 764-8000

Raudz Regional Table

I had local food and beverage expert, @myvancityca recommend “Raudz” to me, and several locals verify her recommendation as the place to try in Kelowna. So when looking for dinner downtown I made an effort to make a reservation at this well known local hot spot.

The restaurant was kept dark for ambience. Brick walls, a long wooden share table, high back booths, and line sketches of animals over the kitchen pass. We spent some time at the bar waiting for our table by the window to clear. The two sections were separated by a black fence outfitted with window boxes.

The bar showcased a healthy collection of wine, but we decided to try a couple of their cocktails made by two dapper bartenders with styled moustaches that ended at curled tips, dawning bow ties and vests over their collared shirts.

When it was time to shift from bar to table, we were asked to settle up. We did, only for the host that took us there, to mention that they were going to cover our drinks. When I later inquired about the complimentary drinks again, the same host said she confused us with another couple, and disappointment ensued.

I paid in full for my “Teetotaler tries tequila” with Cazadores anejo, marrow vermouth, odd society mia amata amaro, sarsaparilla syrup, orgeat, and soda. And as promised by our bartender duo, it tasted like a root beer float.

My guest also paid in full for her “Lost her way” cocktail. Maple leaf “lady of the cask” brandy, sons of Vancouver amaretto, apricot shrub, and cedar creek “home block brut”. It was a smokey and rich cocktail, yet still easy to drink with a nice foam head.

My second cocktail I had our dining table. This was the “Cupboard cocktail” with Okanagan spirits aquavitus, Grand Marnier, Summerland sweets blackberry jam, Silk Roas sour cherry tea syrup, and lemon. It was boozy, yet jam forward with a unique crushed nut rim. It left you wanting something with peanut butter notes to balance it out.

But the best thing that we had to drink was their “Crab cappuccino”. I can see why it is so popular. It is so well presented and delicious. Roasted Dungeness crab soup with milk froth. It was so deep and rich, yet light to sip. It drank much like tea, hence the way it is served. But if you use the spoon and stir up you get actual pieces of crab at the bottom. Each spoonful had so much crab flavour that you wanted more of. And you didn’t want any bread or crackers to weigh it down. Best just as it is served, at the right temperature. Our server even obliged us with two of the crabs cut from slices of carrot, one of each of us so we didn’t have to share.

The “RJB” was recommend by a local, although his rendition had lobster and truffle. None-the-less we still ordered this grilled beef tenderloin sandwich with butter poached crab, shaved cured bacon, and onion jam; all on a brioche bun, served with roasted potatoes and a duck fat mayonnaise. This was a board that kept you interested, a choose your own adventure of eating. Rich flavours and a juicy steak, but the bun get soggy fast because of it. Just as well, seeing as the steak was so thick that it was hard to bite into. This was best enjoyed with fork and knife and pieces cut down to manageable bites. My only critique was that the mushrooms were far too salty, which we mentioned it to our server, who did offer to replace it. But the time it takes for them to make it, the rest of the board would be cold. The potato and duck fat on the other hand was amazing. A salty and tasty spin on a classic side.

The presentation of the “Yarrow valley duck breast” was a feast for the eyes, shame it was so dark by the time we ate, that I wasn’t able to capture it well. Perfectly cooked juicy chunks of duck served with fresh cheese gnudi, Okanagan mushrooms, wilted greens, roasted pepper, and a mushroom cream. All the flavours were complimentary, but we all found things salty as certain patches. The gnudi was also fairly memorable, like cheesy mashed potato rounds.

We didn’t have room for dessert, but our bill came with complimentary lollipos for each of us. Even my third guest who came to join us towards the end of our meal, finishing up what we were too full to, got one. This was very considerate of our server, who didn’t want him feeling left out.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I would definitely like to return to try more of their menu, everything we had was tasty and there is so much more to try on their impressive menu. Don’t deny your cravings.

1560 Water St, Kelowna, BC V1Y 1J7
(250) 868-8805

Ricco Bambino Urban Winery

Having seen photos of their decor online was reason enough to visit. “Ricco Bambino” is one of the only wineries located in downtown Kelowna, and the first wine bar in the city. A place that specializes in pouring drinks without a full sized kitchen. Here they offer a complimentary bowls of salt and vinegar chips to start and has a light snack menu that includes cheese and bread, dried meat, and olives

Their motif is a tropical paradise with cotton candy pink walls, gold mirrors, and a luscious jungle of greenery growing to the skies and dripping from the ceiling. The seats are crushed velvet, with a visible view of their wine vats. This is the perfect locale for any glitzy girl’s night, especially given their charming bottle labels and unique branding with cartoon crown logo.

At “Ricco Bambino” they specialize in minimal intervention wine making. Some of it is filtered so can’t say that they are fully organic, but they are vegan. We were given an unofficial run down of their product and brand, by the very knowledgeable young man that worked the winery tonight. He really made our visit an informative one.

We went with their wine flights, to be able to try a couple of bottles. I choose their only orange and pink, and followed it with a red. And my guest did their sparkling flight, a taste of each of their sparkling products.

The “Orange skin contact Pinot Gris” was my favourite and the most memorable of all their wines. This was their first take on an orange wine, with the seeds turning this white orangey in colour. Its flavour is from the grapes that grew during a heavy period of forest fires. It is interesting how that smoky flavour carried through to the grape and therefore the wine, for a whisky-like essence.

They only have one rosé, so it is named as such. This was fruit forward and clean with field strawberries on the nose. Prepared in stainless steel, this is exactly what you expect in a rosé. Tart finish and not too sweet.

My last pour was the red, “Grenache” prepared in concrete and not an oak barrel. The result a more fruit forward, “crushable red” with some smokiness; although flat if you are use to heavy rich reds. It is served slightly chilled, like white wine would.

Each of the bubbles had a fun princess-y name, like the “Kicked out of the country club 2017 Brut”. It has apple cider qualities with pear notes.

The “Very troubled child 2017 rosé brut” has a lot more bubbles and a lot more bite with citrus notes. Interestingly this had less sugar than the first sparkling, yet it drinks sweeter.

The “Crooked crown petillant naturel 2018” is a natural wine. You can tell it is unfiltered from its murky hue. This one was more fizzy than the other two, with a tingling tongue sensation.

Come for the photo op, stay to enjoy the wine bar vibe, with a local product made with pride.

Ricco Bambino
1630 Pandosy St Shop 101, Kelowna, BC V1Y 1P7

Mission Hill Family Estate Winery

I was visiting Kelowna with a friend who was a wine enthusiast, yet has never visited Canada’s wine country. So for her first visit to Okanagan we made sure to hit a few of the largest wineries in the area, starting with “Mission Hill”. And the best way to take in this landmark winery is with one of their guided tours. Not only does it take you to places otherwise sectioned off, but you gain a new found appreciation for the winery in question.

We started our afternoon exploring the compound on our own, arriving early enough to avoid the bulk of the tourists, for people-free scenery photos. We would be forced to linger here and at the gift-shop as their “Terrace restaurant” doesn’t open until 11:30am on the nose.

Its location is unique with a raised view overlooking their grape fields. However, with a sun shade draped over it, you don’t get an unobstructed view. That and if you are a table of two, only one person gets the face the fields. The other stares out at the property, with kids rolling down their lawn, that doubles as a “stadium” for live musical performances.

At “Terrace”, we enjoyed a lunch with two full entrees. Both were delicious, and surprisingly filling, but we had to pace ourselves because we would have a wine and cheese tasting to follow.

The “Fresh made tyner durum wheat orecchiette” was perfectly firm pasta with wild mushrooms, garden herbs, and triple island Parmesan. It and each menu item was listed with a suggested wine paring. But we discarded the option of a Pinot Noir and opted for a glass of their “Mission Hill” Pinot Gris instead.

The “Dry aged brisket burger and triple cooked fries” was a familiar flavour, but elevated with a thick and juicy, medium rare patty. Terrace pickles, aged cheddar, and double smoked bacon; all on a sesame seed bun. It was deliciously messy with plenty of jus and a patty that crumbled apart.

We enjoyed each other’s company and the view before heading indoors for our tour. You check in at their reception desk where you are given a pin designating your participation in the tour. Your guide greets you with a glass of sparkling to start. Then as a group you walk the property pausing at points of interest.

We began at the entrance, sipping amongst the vines, as she gave us the history of their grapes and its European origins. We then walked to the bell tower where we were told the significance of the bells that rang every 30 minutes. Four in the total, each representing the main family members. Visitors aren’t allowed up into the tower as the sound of the bells can be deafening. Instead you can take in a fifth bell that hangs on display below the tower. The intention was for it to join the others, but due to a small imperfection with its circumference it is now a bell you can rap your knuckles on and take photos of.

Next it was a walk down to their wine cellar, a scene that made the whole tour worth it. Here, under cool temperatures sat 800 barrels, each held 310 bottles of wine. We learned how the barrels were topped off and where the practice first began. It dated back to when they made wine and the barrels were transported by horse. However when the barrels got to their destination, half of the wine was always missing. And back then, they didn’t have the science to figure out why, so instead, they contributed it to angel’s drinking the wine. Though the reality was, it was just evaporating.

We took a peek behind the cast iron gate and large padlock that secured their oldest bottles and collection of historic vessels that once served wine. Urns, pots, and decanters. Here, we were told a tale of how they won the “2013 Decanter World Wine Awards” for their “2011 Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir”. A surprise to so many that they had to register and compete twice, and really work for their win. And with both blind taste tests, they won. People just couldn’t believe that wine made from grapes that is not local to Canada could win. And with that “Mission Hill” completed what they set out to do: to show the world that their wines could stand up in the international market.

Our tour ended at one of their salons, past the above mentioned award. Out of the 5 they have, this was my favourite. A glass room surrounded by wine barrels, centred around an extravagant white glass chandler with a majestic black table under it. We each sat at one end, and began grazing as our tour guide spoke to the pairings of local made cheeses and “Mission Hill” wines. A white, red, and dessert wine paired with a sharp, a creamy, and a blue cheese.


Then we ended in the gift shop, with her showing where we could find our own bottle to take home.

Truth be told, you can read all the above and more for yourself online, but being able to hear and interact with the space in a different way is a much better way to explore a winery.

Mission Hill Winery
1730 Mission Hill Rd, Okanagan Valley BC, V4T2E4

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